So where’s the outrage? Why aren’t demonstrators besieging the White House? Where are the “Welcome to Bushville” signs in those neighborhoods where abandoned homes outnumber the occupied ones?
The answer, I suspect, is that you can only irreversibly give up on a president once. Further catastrophic failures on the president’s part elicit only diminishing returns. Buchanan did nothing while the South seceded: That was it for him. Hoover did nothing as farmers, workers and middle-class America got wiped out: With that, he was beyond rehabilitation. Nixon had Watergate: Enough said. One mega-strike and you’re out.
Bush, however, has had three. He misled us into a nearly endless war of choice to disarm a threat that never really existed. He let a great American city drown. And now he stands by while the economic security of tens of millions of Americans is vanishing.
Yet in the hearts of his countrymen, Bush’s place is already fixed. Even before the financial collapse, he was in the ninth circle of presidential hell, with Buchanan and Hoover. At his own party’s national convention this summer, his was the name that no one dared speak. And so, though his mishandling of the economy is criminally inept, he is being spared one more outbreak of public rage by two countervailing public sentiments: Americans’ relief that he soon will be gone and their kind reluctance to kick a corpse.
I think Meyerson is right that “you can only irreversibly give up on a president once.” I think for most Americans, who (unaccountably, in my opinion) seem to have supported Bush’s drive for war in Iraq in 2002-03, Hurricane Katrina was the decisive moment when they saw that Emperor C+ Augustus had no clothes. And if you’ll recall, this impression was only magnified when the devastation of New Orleans was immediately followed by the laughably disastrous nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. This recession/depression is just the latest turd in the punchbowl of the Bush presidency. Since most of us stopped drinking it years ago–if indeed we ever bothered to taste a draught–it’s beside the point.
What do you think? Do Presidents have only one opportunity to blow it, or can you think of instances when the American people granted a mulligan to U.S. Presidents to blow it again? Are Americans in fact too kind to kick a corpse? I’m not sure I am too kind, but I’m only too happy to see this judgment of the Bush presidency rendered even before his presidency is officially over. Welcome to the Pantheon of failed presidencies, Your Irrelevancy! John Adams and James Buchanan sure are happy to see you.